Five Ways To Teach Young Kids Responsibility

Jessie Casson / Getty Images

Teaching young kids responsibility is easier in theory than in practice. However, while raising responsible children takes some figuring out, it’s not impossible. So how do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world? Here’s what you need to teach your kid about tasks, consequences, investing, accomplishments and action:

1. Assign your child a task.

Giving your child a job to do may seem obvious, but it is such an important way to teach them about responsibility. Of course, don’t overestimate your child’s abilities or overload them in a way that will cause burnout. However, do assign age-appropriate tasks.

For example, ask your two-year-old to be responsible for bringing his own trash to the kitchen bin. Let your four-year-old pour her own cereal in the morning, or better yet, allow kids to assist with all family meals.

Permitting children to help with daily tasks not only instills responsibility, but it gives them ownership over the final product and helps them feel accomplished.

2. Show them actions have consequences.

Another way to teach children responsibility: show them that actions have consequences. Don’t allow your kids to put themselves or others in danger, of course, but allow them to see both the natural and parent-imposed consequences for less-than-responsible behavior.

If your middle schooler leaves their homework at home, don’t immediately rush to bring it to them. Likewise, if your child blows their allowance on something ill-advised, don’t give them more money for a do-over purchase. Let them experience the consequences of their choices. Hopefully, it will help them make better ones later.

3. Let your child invest in something.

Another tip: let your child invest in something—not just with money, but with time and effort. Sign them up for an activity in which they express an interest. Whether it’s soccer, swimming, violin, or art classes, allow your child to reap the benefits of their hard work and practice.

Further, encourage your child to stick with their activity if they try to throw in the towel midway. Get to the root cause of their desire to bail. If the activity is negatively affecting their mental health, then find a new plan. But, if it’s a matter of busting through a period of boredom and building character, then help them stick to their goals and learn the responsibility of their investment.

4. Celebrate their accomplishments.

Another way you can help teach your child responsibility: praise them. Thank them for the tasks they complete. Let them know you appreciate their help, and that their actions are a sign of growth and maturity. This will boost your child’s confidence and make them eager to repeat the positive behavior in the future.

5. Let them watch you in action.

Finally, let your child observe you being responsible. Let them watch you pay bills, exercise, and clean the garage. If they have questions, answer them with interest rather than blowing them off. Even if you are busy, explain why you do the work you do and what it means for your family.

Additionally, use words of inclusion such as “we.” For example, say things like “we put our laundry in the hamper” as opposed to “you didn’t put your laundry in the hamper.” Help them understand household chores are a collective effort.

With some time and understanding, you will be on your way toward raising responsible kids who, with luck, will become responsible adults.

What are your favorite ways to teach young children responsibility?